Guest Blog Feature: Art Makes Children Powerful- The Importance of Arts Education
Anna Rumsby, a team member from Mini Artists, shares her professional insight on the importance of Arts education and why art makes children powerful below:
EVERY CHILD IS BORN AN ARTIST
As Picasso famously declared:
‘All children are born artists the problem is how to remain an artist as we grow up.’
Without the encouragement of an adult (that early admiration of preschool art) our children will not stand a chance to grow. What starts out as a charming drawing of a crocodile could be the beginnings of a successful creative journey and lets face it every champion needs a champion.
It saddens me that so many children give up art because they are unable to produce technically impressive work and unfortunately this is partly due to some critical adult voices that still believe a good drawing is all about accuracy and mimesis. Arguably this is an aspect of art education and a dying craft given the revival of atelier academies dedicated to the practice of ‘sight- size’ drawing (a traditional method of drawing using a plumb line as a measuring device). However with enough determination and practice on part of the child, likeness can be learned when he or she is ready for it.
The world is colourful, exciting, full of shapes and combinations that would take an eternity to capture. Children see this and that makes them the first astronauts of creativity. Their opinions count.
Creativity is as much about honesty, risk-taking and the unknown as it is about knowing all the tricks of the trade. Wonderful drawings have been made by the children I teach simply by asking them to look harder, no step-by-step instructions, just their unique voice shining through and the eyes doing all the work driven by an optimistic energy easily found in youth.
Sensitivity is an ingredient that shines brightly and becomes much more interesting to the trained eye than the confident life drawings of an experienced adult drawing on autopilot. I have always thought that adults who are not continuously drawing or who stopped a long while ago seem to have a very unsophisticated palette for what qualifies as a good drawing. The best artists are really inventing their own techniques and the longer you are drawing the closer you are to realising a truth that Oscar Wilde summed up nicely:
‘ No great artist sees things as they really are. If they did they would cease to be an artist.’
WHY ENCOURAGE ART EDUCATION
But why is it essential that we encourage art? We hear about the educational benefits including fine motor skills, self- confidence, self- expression and problem solving. However we also know that wanting to become an artist is a brave choice, one that concerned parents and careers advisers might direct children away from. The truth is finding fame and wealth through our art isn’t a certainty or an easy path. Nevertheless the arts sector is large, it encompasses careers in illustration, graphic design, architecture, animation the list goes on and they are all thriving industries.
Regardless of how our children earn their money there’s a more important reason for art to be introduced to children early on. Art makes us kinder people.
To draw is to appreciate the banal, the wild and exotic, that which we do not know or that we take for granted until we draw it. It is a stroking of the world we live in and an acceptance of everything within, similar to mediation, it can lead to happiness and transcendence. To simply be, appreciating the here and now.
Most of our working lives are lived through a laptop, yet drawing stands strong in defiance. All that we need is pencil to paper and instantly we connect to the physical world around us. It is proof we exist and as corny as this may sound we need it to increase our capacity to love.
Art is communication, it’s having something to say and since every child has a point of view it is a wonderfully inclusive subject without any wrong or right answers and whereby our big mistakes become our moments of brilliance. Lessons in life can be seen as metaphors in art and we can learn about ourselves and understand the greater world we are part of reaching beyond our own selfish needs.
THE FUTURE OF ART EDUCATION
Teaching art is difficult in a school environment whereby teachers are pressured by time constraints and art can feel curtailed, interrupted by classroom management and subordinate to academic subjects as outlined in Ken Robinson’s humorous Ted talk ‘Do schools kill creativity?’ (2006).
Whilst many schools adopt a healthy, unpatronising ethos whereby children as young as 5 are receptive to the idea of abstract expressionism, time constraints pose a problem and in some cases art has been expanded in the form of after school clubs.
In recent years we have seen a growing number of businesses that provide art workshops for children. One such example is Mini Artists, a team of London based artist/educators offering tailor made workshops allowing children to create in the comfort of their own home alongside friends and family.
If more practicing artists (with the necessary DBS checks in place) are invited into schools and homes to teach art they will come fresh with energy, passion and experience. It would be hard for teachers to adopt as much passion after a hard day’s work covering all subjects.
It is important to offer art education as a form of play. I have seen first hand the academic pressures of children as young as 6 years old in order to get him/her into the top private schools. The expectations from teachers and parents are huge and I do wonder what the pay off for this will be. Either way there is very little time left for allowing free fall creativity to thrive in schools.
THE FUTURE STARTS WITH ART
Mostly I am interested in what children have to say as individuals, what future adults lay within them? Often through teaching art I would see glimpses of a wonderful adult in the making:
‘Theo’ was ideas focused, perhaps a future scientist a boy who loves to experiment, collaborate and to share.
‘Maxi’ was materials’ led, highly observant, sensitive and creative. Truly belonging to the visual arts.
‘Sam’ a quiet girl in her own world and struggling to keep up academically. Yet her artwork sung brightly and to this day it sticks in my mind.
‘Barnaby’ had a clear gift for story telling and narrative. Literature and books would surely be part of his adult life as I imagined him seamlessly weaving the plot of a future novel.
All my predictions are speculative but through art we see all subjects, opinions and personalities emerge. I urge every parent to make time for art, allow your children to have a visual voice and while they are working watch them – you might just learn a thing or two yourself!